Over the last couple of years, one of the ongoing themes of our little column has centered around the unpredictable nature of the Canadian Football League.
Usually that has been concentrated on the on-field product. This week, however, that same unpredictable nature carried over to the draft floor as the 2014 CFL Draft gave us fireworks worthy of kicking off the season.
Eye to the future
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» 1st Overall Pick - Pierre Lavertu
It can be argued that the Calgary Stampeders have been the model of consistency under John Hufnagel. Yes, the Stamps would like to have more than just the one Grey Cup over that span, but their regular season success can’t be argued.
The fact of the matter is, under John Hufnagel, Calgary always has a legitimate shot at winning the Grey Cup. They can do this year-after-year because they’re always keeping one eye down the road.
Since Hufnagel’s inaugural year in 2008, there has always seemed to be a backup plan for the Stamps. The team moved on from Joffrey Reynolds, not because he couldn’t play, but because a younger back was ready.
That back just happened to be record setter Jon Cornish. Henry Burris can still play at a high level, but the team decided a fresher Drew Tate was the guy they needed to hand the reins to at quarterback.
Cutting ties with established players before their expiry date isn’t easy, but football can be a very cutthroat business.
The Stampeders have done a very good job of mastering the cyclical nature of the business, and moves like the ones described above are not out of the ordinary. As such, their bold move on Draft day can’t really be viewed as a massive surprise.
Calgary acquired the first overall selection from the Ottawa REDBLACKS along with the rights to Marwan Hage in exchange for offensive lineman Jon Gott. It was an eyebrow-raising move, as Gott had been a pretty key cog in the Calgary offensive line.
A former Canadian Draft pick himself (5th round in 2008), Gott had solidified himself at left guard between Brett Jones and Stanley Bryant.
But Gott is also an oft-injured 28-year-old, so the Stampeders saw their chance to get younger and pounced on it.
The Stamps selected three time all-Canadian offensive lineman Pierre Lavertu from Laval and there’s a chance he might slot right into Gott’s vacant slot come late June. Lavertu is younger, highly touted, and looks ready to step in in the immediate future.
It’s the type of move a team that thinks like Calgary would make.
This move doesn’t come without risk, however. Don’t forget, the Stampeders also lost their other veteran guard Dmitri Tsoumpas due to retirement this off-season, so this has the makings of a very young line in 2014.
Lavertu joins 2013 first rounder and soon-to-be rookie Brander Craighead and sophomore standout Brett Jones on the promising, but inexperienced offensive front.
Luckily Stanley Bryant and Dan Federkeil are nice anchors at tackle, meaning things will probably lean towards promising for the coming season.
A decent debut
The first real Canadian Draft didn’t disappoint for fans of the REDBLACKS.
The newest CFL franchise didn’t select first overall, but GM Marcel Desjardins is probably resting comfortably after all his wheeling and dealing on the draft phones.
While Calgary’s acquisition of the first overall pick was savvy, I’ll also defend the move from an Ottawa perspective, because I think it makes sense for them too. Gott is a pretty reliable piece and also has a great deal of familiarity with quarterback Henry Burris and Head Coach Rick Campbell.
There’s something to be said for a comfort level between a team’s pivot and the men protecting him, and there’s a good chance of that here.
Plus, if you’re the REDBLACKS, you’re still trying to separate yourself from the last, less positive CFL entry in our Nation’s Capital. One way of doing that is hitting the ground running with some experienced impact players as opposed to going the traditional slow, deliberate expansion route.
With Burris and, to a lesser extent, Gott, the hope would be to be somewhat competitive in the East Division in year one. The proof remains in the pudding, of course.
Let’s not forget, either, that Ottawa still selected a pretty high-end player at number four in defensive back Antoine Pruneau. The University of Montreal product was the second fastest prospect in this year’s Combine and has been compared to Alouettes safety Mike Edem by our CFL.ca’s Justin Dunk.
He has the explosive tools to build a defensive backfield around, and if that comparison to Edem ends up being accurate, an extremely exciting player to watch in the very near future.
Do the shuffle
Kevin Glenn likely never started looking for a place in Ottawa. After being selected in December’s expansion draft by the REDBLACKS, he was shuffled off to BC early on in Tuesday’s draft in exchange for the fifth overall pick. And once again, Glenn just can’t get the starting job he truly deserves.
It’s a move that makes sense for the Lions. Incumbent Travis Lulay is still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. While he is expected to be ready to go for training camp, there are never any guarantees with things like this, and having a proven, effective backup like Glenn is the perfect insurance policy to have.
But isn’t this basically the same situation he was in with Ottawa?
Glenn requested a trade from the REDBLACKS after their Burris acquisition, as he wanted a chance to start. Yes, I guess there’s a chance Lulay might not be ready for the start of the regular season, but that seems unlikely.
Lulay is younger than Burris and, other than 2013, has been pretty durable behind centre. Is this really a more desirable spot for a guy who wants to start?
Nonetheless, I feel bad for Glenn. He helped the Stampeders to the Grey Cup, and was outstanding against BC in the West Final, in 2013 before guiding the team to a 14-4 regular season record in 2014.
Under ideal circumstances, he deserves to be a starter in this league. But with only nine teams, that can be a easier said than done.
Pat Steinberg is the co-host of the drive home program on Sportsnet Radio FAN 960 in Calgary. He also reports on the CFL and the Stampeders and hosts pre and post-game programs for the team. He looks forward to traveling to the Grey Cup every year. Follow Pat on Twitter @Fan960Steinberg.